|Marker stones in the journey from ignorance to curious engagement:|
|A prism is a device that reveals a hidden reality.|
|The stories we tell ourselves are either doors to heaven and hell, or windows on the wonder of life, consciousness, conscience and meaningful patterns we discover and chose to share with one another. But these stories, nonetheless, develop out of the questions we ask ourselves about existence, our lives and our times.|
|Thomas Merton once wrote that a person is known best by the questions they ask, as opposed to the answers they may render about existence.|
Focus questions (The number refers to week of the course / so the first book we read is 2.):
2. Religious history as a search for order. Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane.
How does he define sacred power; is that use consistent throughout the text? (pp. 12-13, i.e. 102, 194, 198.)
How does the organization of the universe impose on ideas about places, directions, duration, and apparent cycles of death and renewal?
What is the structure that Eliade derives from different religions about how humans organize the world?
What role does hierophany play in the book?
How is the DIVINITY of the COSMOS MANIFEST?
Cosmos, axis mundi, imago mundi, sacral, hierophany, weltanschauung
3. Richard Feynman, The Meaning of it All,
What is uncertainty and how is it, paradoxically, a foundation of order and conditions in modern rational thought?
Who was Michael Faraday and what did he accomplish?
What is the character or form of the underlying common qualities of material things--how are all things made of such elements?
Is a scientist responsible for the outcome of their research, according to Feynman, why or why not?
4. Beyond Einstein: Light quantum order.
Kaku explains the immense distances that have opened up before our inquisitive minds since 1905 and Einstein's reinterpretation of spacetime.
What are the examples of unification that Kaku applies to the history of physics and the birth of quantum mechanics?
What are the logical consequences of Einsteins redefinition of acceleration, light and material existence?
If space and time are not absolute, what accounts for their existence and behavior; how does Kaku explain them?
What are the four or three fundamental forces in the universe?
An extra related play: Freiderich Dürrenmatt, The Physicists,
So who is crazier, the asylum keepers or its inmates?
5. Ernst Mayr, One Long Argument,
Lifes characteristic organization. Mayr elucidates a scholarly revolution that shattered modernity giving birth to biological sciences. Mayr traces the great change in one mans mind.
How did various anomalies lead to the five different pieces of Darwins ideas about the order, origin and behavior of life?
What is the importance of the modern synthesis of molecular biology, genetics, paleontology and Darwinian natural selection?
6. Lynn Margulis, Symbiotic Planet,
How did the five kingdoms of life originate and what distinguishes one from another as they form a complementary whole?
Essence of beings on a Living Planet. Margulis reveals the hidden unity among the myriad forms of life within life.
How is life divided by biological classifications?
What is the five kingdom system and what clues exist to its accuracy as a rendering of the biological world?
In what senses and to what extents is the earth alive?
7. Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden, here Marx charts a literate path to follow: a Second Nature.
What is the logical and symbolic significance of Shakespeares The Tempest?
What is the affect of European colonization and resettlement on the United State's not having undergone the Renaissance as did the Latin American settlemenst that began a century earlier?
What is the "sleepy hollow motif" and how is it used for understanding American cultural transformation by the development of national attitudes about nature?
8. Lifes variations.
The Darwinian Revolution in the life sciences.
Questions to consider in the Mayr and Margulis readings on evolution.
Consider the method of Darwin - what does Mayr argue about his means to the discoveries he made?Look for Darwin quotations; what do his choice of words suggest?
What are Darwins great contributions?
What are some of Darwins evidence for his ideas? How does artificial selection differ from natural selection? How does vertical evolution differ from horizontal evolution? How is diversity accounted for by Mayr, Darwin, & Margulis ? What are fossils for Darwin ? What are the inconsistencies according to Mayr in Darwins thoughts? What is the sexual selection process being described by Darwin?
Interpret Darwins statement in light of Mayrs critique of the term Natural Selection.
This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection. Natural selection, on the principle of qualities being inherited at corresponding ages, can modify the egg, seed, or young, as easily as the adult. (Origin, 127)
9. Lifes essential inner workings.
The Century of the Gene, By Evelyn F. Keller
How do we conceive what a gene is, how it acts, and what it is made of?
How is the function of chromosomes not precisely the same as the idea of a gene to determine a trait?
Where do we find genes?
The X Chromosome: The X in Sex (Gender that is!)
Bainbridge peers deeply beneath the surface.
What is the gender bearing chromosomes hidden secrets?
For more on sex, do see Jared Diamond for Why Sex is Fun!
10. The Human Order. Horney examines our need to control events.
Are we inherently unstable?
What sort of irresolvable tensions do the need for control and the desire for perfectionism generate in human development?
What does the author mean by neurotic personality?
Karen Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth, How does human personality cope with the challenges of socialization, infantile regression and opposition?
12. Cosmos, Light and indeterminacy. Frayn confronts us with responsibility for knowing and respect for not knowing the facts we encounter.
Michael Frayn, Copenhagen, Is this play about scientific knowledge or social responsibility, or are these two sides of a common coin?
How do each of the characters in the play represent the characteristics of scientific knowledge?
What is the dual role of certainty and uncertainty in the play?
What stopped Heisenberg from creating an atomic weapon? Consider the answer from Heisenbergs own perspective or explanation and from Bohrs perspective and argumentation.
What is Margarites role in the play?
The Contested Cosmos. Brecht & Bentley inspect the past.
What accounts for the change and thus the two versions of the play GALILEO about which Eric Bentley writes?
Who is the first to speak to Galileo in the play and what do they speak about?
Who was Galileo? Are these different images of Galileo: the icon, the person, the figure?
What made him and his ideas the sixteenth century cause celebré?
Extra (available in bookstore).
Joseph Siry, Marshes of the Ocean Shore, What were the mistakes made in the earliest assessments of wetlands by observers, naturalists & reclamation engineers; when and based on what body of scientific ideas was the pre-industrial view of marshes altered?
The Discovery of Global Warming, Spencer Weart.
The incredible lightness of being. Weart identifies the motivation and the obstacles that problem-solving scientists confront. What great idea stood in the way of understanding the profound implications for human pollutions capacity to alter the atmosphere?
How did the balance of nature impede the acceptance of global warming?
On Your Own @ the Olin Library: inspecting the treasury of the intellect.
The repository of our collective intellect, or an archive of a passing time?
Go here for more complete lists of critical vocabulary and specific definitions of words such as science, epistemology, nature, technology, ecology, worldviews and culture. None of these words are simply defined on their face value because their subtle or nuances meanings offer important clues to complex themes in this class of: Cosmos, or order, Bios, or life and Lux, or light.
Feynman suggested that science is at once: the means to know, the evidence of what we know and the products of knowing applied to practical tasks. Compare his definitions with the web site and the definitions used in the study guide.
World view –Several authors refer to the concept of a worldview, starting with Eliade and including Kaku and Mayr. Margulis certainly alludes to the concept as does the Galileo readings. So for clarification consider the following definitions as only a start for what the term implies:
Weltanschauung Beliefs about reality Actual behavior explained Personal materialist vs. spiritualist ? Society atomism vs. collectivism astrological Zeitgeist, spirit of the times anti-intellectual
Writing about world views.
Pyramid of explanatory means to determine errors:
Pyramid of terms explained
scientific the search for errors in conventional explanations based on heuristics, reason, empiricism and theoretical coherence.
empirical the imposition of similar descriptions based on repeated observations to test the logical assumptions arising from reason.
dialectical a refinement of a logical approach by means of employing opposites to determine the essential qualities of experience.
rational a logical approach to reason; analyzing and synthesizing experience according to some definable relation among elements.
magical based on a belief in sympathies among like and unlike objects we encounter: water is like blood.
mystical the belief that the reasons for the behavior we witness in the material world is largely, if not wholly, inexplicable.
The pyramid in three dimensions could be conceived of as a prism, through which we look at the world; an instrument to examine the complexity of experience.
Mystery of the order, origins and function of the Universe, the Earth and its "strange freight" of passengers.
The journey of stars, life and humanity begs for an explanation, because since the earliest recorded languages, humans have told stories about how the world came to be, continues to function and holds our attention.
Themes in the above questions about knowing the natural world are cosmos, life, and light. And thus, how the inorganic and organic means of existence sufficiently describe the modern world as functioning in a necessary and sufficient way without the need of corrective, divine intervention.
Science is a means of determining errors and is not, as many imagine, the surest road to Truth, since, we simultaneously "can't handle the truth," and the world is not only "queerer than we think, but is queerer than we can think," according to J. B. S. Haldane.
Defining roles played by ideas in the ongoing dialogue that comprises science:
Text specific questions | Definitions of science | Themes in | world views | Pyramid | related ideas
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